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Thursday, 25 April 2013 05:15

Positive Psychology, Change and the Bottom Line, Part I

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Bring up the subject of 'positive psychology' in a roomful of hard-nosed business types and you'll almost always get the same reaction:  A whole lot of rolled eyes and possibly the assumption that you shouldn't have been let into the room in the first place, what with your dangerous hippy notions and all.

But as many of today's most successful businesses - think Google, Apple, Virgin Mobile - have discovered, positive psychology can have a huge impact on the bottom line, especially over the long-term.  In this series, we examine what positive psychology really is, how it affects change, and how businesses can benefit from a better understanding of positive psychology in the workplace.

Why positive psychology?

Today's 24-hour news cycle means that we're being bombarded with 'negative' messages all the time, from global warming and world hunger to slow economies and political dictatorships.  

What we hear less about are the world leaders, business leaders and scientists who are trying - and succeeding - to make a difference even in the face of all this negativity.  And I tend to think that we can learn just as much from these successes as we can from a steady diet of negative stories.

Positive psychology was born out of a desire to stop focusing only on the negative while recognizing that we may have just as much to learn from positivity and success as we do from negativity and failures.

What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology is the science of human flourishing.  It was started in response to what psychology had become, at least in the United States:  The study of problems, failures and disease.  Though it has roots in the 1950s, Dr. Martin Seligman is credited with popularizing positive psychology in the late 1990s.

Dr. Seligman began by asking "Why are we only studying problems, instead of also studying what makes people successful?"  What makes people flourish?  What makes them happy?  Instead of asking "what's wrong?", why not ask "what's right?"

What does positive psychology have to do with change?

When we start thinking of positive psychology in terms of how humans are successful, the connection to change (and therefore change management) becomes more obvious.  Change management practitioners spend a lot of time examining why change fails, but you can't be successful by focusing only on what could make you fail.  Positive psychology suggests that a more productive approach might be to examine how and why change is successful - the idea being that positivity begets positivity, which is particularly important within large and changing organizations.


NEXT:  Part II - Neuroplasticity

Read 71092 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 May 2013 06:35

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Beth Banks Cohn, PhD, founder and president of ADRA Change Architects, is dedicated to helping you and your organization reach your full business potential…
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